Inspiring Impact

It Only Takes a Spark

Our goal with camp is to provide kids with a lifelong love of learning and to open the minds of students who have never had the opportunity to imagine the possibilities of technology.

Rich Nichols, Executive Director, United Advocacy Group

It begins with a Little Spark. Giving kids the chance to create, invent, play, and problem-solve with state of the art technology. For twenty-one young people receiving an OceanFirst Summer Camp Scholarship to participate in United Advocacy Group’s (UAG) Little Sparks Technology Camp in partnership with South Jersey Robotics, camp also provided a much needed break from the isolation caused by the pandemic.

Campers showed up ready to have fun. They performed experiments on environmental and household chemicals, explored design/build with Lego Robotics (always a favorite), learned 3-D printing, computer programming and video game design, and tapped into their creativity doing sculpting and graphic design. They even made tie-dye masks. They expanded their minds, innovated, and learned about teamwork and what it means to be a leader.

“UAG was birthed from the idea that life’s journey is not meant to be walked alone. By connecting neighbors to opportunities and resources that strengthen their families, we help them achieve their dreams. Southern New Jersey provides the ability to commute to multiple large cities where students with gifts in technology can become whoever and whatever they want. They just have to want to learn, and our goal is to give them the opportunity,” Rich Nichols. Watch camp highlights here and visit unitedadvocacygroup.org to learn more.

Going Virtual and Getting Outdoors at Tuckerton Seaport

We were able to reach more families than ever before, despite the challenges. There is no way to look at kids painting flatties, carving fish out of soap, or weaving a paper cup basket and not smile.

Brooke Salvanto, Executive Director, Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum

Tuckerton Seaport is all about getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, exploring, and learning about the abundant wildlife, art, and rich history of coastal New Jersey. This summer looked and felt a little different at the Seaport, but we’re happy to share that the Seaport’s popular boat rides on the OceanFirst Floating Classroom resumed with safety precautions and social distancing in place, and camp went virtual to keep kids and families engaged all summer long.

The team at the Seaport created a 20-part YouTube video series featuring topics like Backyard Birding, Basket Weaving, Blacksmithing, Felting, and Folk Art to stay connected to the young people that would typically attend in-person summer camp. Families were able to safely access the fun videos and complete hands-on activities from home.

The upside to adapting to meet the challenges…the Seaport reached new families and served more kids than previous in-person camps. Click here to check out the summer camp video series and visit tuckertonseaport.org to learn more.

An Extraordinary PAL

Kids need what we do. The relationships between our youth, police officers and PAL mentors have helped our kids become engineers, game designers, police officers, medical professionals, and mechanics. At PAL, they learn responsibility, teamwork, and leadership skills and they have fun. 

Hector Tavarez, Executive Director, Egg Harbor Township Police Activities League

Meet Hector Tavarez – he’s not your typical PAL Director. Hector served on the Egg Harbor Township Police Department for 25 years before retiring as a Captain ten years ago. Matt Ricco and Jake Jacobs, both coaches and police officers in his hometown, inspired Hector to start the Egg Harbor Township Police Activities League (EHTPAL). He’s currently overseeing a major expansion of the PAL’s facilities and is laser focused on creating an innovative and accessible place for young people to participate and excel in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, while maintaining traditional PAL programs like sports, outdoor activities and summer camp.

In 2019, PAL served 872 members, with 450 young people participating in the STEM program. OceanFirst has sponsored their world-ranked FIRST Tech Challenge team – the #7149 ENFORCERS – which designs, builds, programs, and operates robots to play a floor game in an alliance format. Guided by mentors, teams develop STEM skills and practice real life engineering principles. They also learn the value of hard work, innovation, and team building.

The impact of Hector’s leadership and the programs offered by PAL is clear – young people are inspired to become whatever they want to be. Hector likes to say to the kids “be the best version of you” and we couldn’t agree more. Visit ehtpal.org to learn more.